‘Life’s a lot bigger than cricket’ — David Bedingham on accident that changed his perspective

‘Life’s a lot bigger than cricket’ — David Bedingham on accident that changed his perspective
David Bedingham of South Africa plays the ball for four runs on day three of the second test against New Zealand at Seddon Park in Hamilton on 15 February 2024. (Photo: Hannah Peters / Getty Images)

Middle-order batter David Bedingham’s pressure-free approach has helped him to go from a talented youngster to the top of the game.

David Bedingham makes batting in Test cricket look easy. He stands tall at the crease, looks to play as straight as possible and hits the ball as clean as a whistle.

A month shy of his 30th birthday, he has his game figured out.

Bedingham’s batting style is conventional and reasonably close to “textbook”, which is a rare sight in modern-day cricket, with ramp shots and reverse sweeps having become commonplace.

The No 5 batter has excelled in his first four Tests for South Africa, notching up two half-centuries and one century at an average of just under 50 – the highest among current Proteas batters.

The brilliant batter looks born to play red-ball cricket and has the statistics to back it up.

In South Africa’s recent two-match Test tour to New Zealand, Bedingham was by far the best batter for the Proteas. He was one of only two batters to pass 50 and the only one to do it more than once.

When I was in hospital I wasn’t thinking about cricket, I was thinking about walking straight and getting my studies done and working a normal job.

He scored 268 runs at an average of 67, which included his highest Test score of 110.

But there have been several obstacles on his journey to the summit.

“I’m very proud [to represent South Africa] but in saying that, it was a long process and I have a lot of people to thank,” Bedingham told Daily Maverick. “Two or three years ago I didn’t think I’d be playing for SA.”

A change in perspective

After a solid but stuttering three years of first-class cricket for Western Province, 22-year-old Bedingham was in a car accident at the end of 2016 that left him sidelined from cricket for the whole of 2017.

“We were having a golf day in Stellenbosch,” he said. “It was a hot day. I played the [first] nine holes and then was tired so decided to leave.

“I dropped my friend off at the hostel and as I was driving back, maybe 10 minutes into my drive I fell asleep at the wheel and drove into a bakkie.

“I broke my femur, my jaw on both sides and my hand. [It] was a long process back, but it [stood] me in good stead.”

The accident totalled Bedingham’s car but didn’t crush his dreams of playing cricket at the highest level. Instead, it gave him a new outlook on life.

Bedingham was a student at Stellenbosch University, studying towards a bachelor of commerce degree at the time.

“It gave me the perspective of ‘life is a lot bigger than cricket’,” he said.

“When I was in hospital I wasn’t thinking about cricket, I was thinking about walking straight and getting my studies done and working a normal job.

“When I started playing cricket again – because I had that outlook on life and cricket – I put less pressure on myself and things just started to happen.”

Though the nerves remain for the sweet-strokemaker when he walks to the crease, the pressure of performing well every time he takes guard, which he put on himself before, has dissipated.

In the 2018/19 four-day domestic season, Bedingham was the then Cobras, now Western Province’s, second-highest run scorer, with 609 at an average of 46.84.

When I was here [in South Africa] I used to score runs only on flat pitches, but when I came back from Durham and played here I felt I could score runs in different conditions.

He followed that up with 349 runs at an average of 58.16 in the next season, having played only five matches. His newfound confidence in his game was apparent – with a strike rate of more than 80 that season.

But having still found game time scarce, he decided to take his talents overseas.

Seeking greener pastures

In 2020, Bedingham went to the UK on an ancestral visa and played for Durham with one eye on qualifying to play for England.

He comfortably took to division two of county cricket, finishing the 2021 season as the fourth-highest run getter with a mammoth 1,029 in 13 matches at an eye-catching average of 60.52.

David Bedingham

Will Young of the New Zealand Black Caps makes a catch to dismiss David Bedingham of South Africa on day one of the second test at Seddon Park in Hamilton on 13 February 2024. (Photo: Hannah Peters / Getty Images)

He scored his maiden first-class double century against Derbyshire that season – that 257 remains his highest first-class score.

According to Bedingham, playing in the unfamiliar conditions in England helped his ability to adapt to varying surfaces.

“The conditions are very different there,” he said. “The wickets are a lot slower, the bowlers are a bit more skilful but probably slower.

“Adapting your game to those conditions means that you can adapt your game to Test cricket. All the differences in bowlers and conditions have helped me improve my overall game.

“When I was here [in South Africa] I used to score runs only on flat pitches, but when I came back from Durham and played here I felt I could score runs in different conditions – whether it’s low and slow or bouncy and quick – so it helped in that aspect.

“It also grew me as a person, going to a new country all by myself, meeting people… that just makes you a stronger person and I truly believe if you’re a stronger person you’ll be a stronger cricketer.”

Despite his strong performances in England, Bedingham recommitted himself to representing South Africa at the start of 2023.

With Shukri Conrad at the helm of the national Test squad, Bedingham quickly found himself called up to a South African “A” squad and then South Africa’s Test squad against India, where he made his debut at Centurion in December.

He scored a chanceless 56 in his debut innings in international cricket, before being clean-bowled by Mohammed Siraj, but he looked like a man who belonged at that level.

A second home

The middle-order batter recently missed the final of the domestic four-day competition – which Western Province lost by 99 runs to the Lions at the start of the month – because he was in England.

He needs to be in England a certain number of days in order to gain citizenship to the country.

“My fiancé is a dependant on my passport so if I don’t do 180 days in a year she won’t be able to work there. That’s a big part of my life and her life so I have to miss a couple of games [for Western Province], unfortunately.

“I value life a lot more than cricket.” This is a perspective that has stuck with Bedingham since his accident.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Young Proteas batters desperately need more time in the middle to hone their craft

“It’s unfortunate I missed the final, it’s unfortunate I couldn’t really train, but life’s a lot bigger than cricket,” he said.

“I would never, ever go over to England to do a pre-season rather than play a final.”

Outside of the oval field, Bedingham is currently completing his BCom degree – which he was on the cusp of finishing at Stellenbosch University before his accident, through the University of South Africa – as a thank you to his father, who paid for his previous studies. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.


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